Imágenes de páginas

empany of those whose characters were blasted tune still attended me; our ship was taken by a ake my own; but who perhaps deserved their in- Barbary corsair; the whole crew, and I among the famy. Among this number was a lady of the first number, being made slaves. It carries too much distinction, whose character the public thought the air of romance to inform you of my distresses proper to brand even with greater infamy than or obstinancy in this miserable state ; it is enough mine. A similitude of distress soon united us; I to observe, that I have been bought by several masknew that general reproach had made her misera- ters, each of whom perceiving my reluctance, rather ble; and I had learned to regard misery as an ex- than use violence, sold me to another, till it was my cuse for guilt. Though this lady had not virtue happiness to be at last rescued by you." enough to avoid reproach, yet she had too much Thus ended her relation, which I have abridged, delicate sensibility not to feel it. She therefore but as soon as we are arrived at Moscow, for which proposed our leaving the country where we were we intend to set out shortly, you shall be informed born, and going to live in Italy, where our charac- of all more particularly. In the meantime the ters and misfortunes would be unknown. With greatest addition to my happiness will be to hear this I eagerly complied, and we soon found our- of yours. Adieu. selves in one of the most charming retreats in the most beautiful province of that enchanting country.

"Had my companion chosen this as a retreat for injured virtue, a harbour where we might look

LETTER LXI. with tranquillity on the distant angry world, I

From Lien Chi Altangi to Hingpo. should have been happy; but very different was her design; she had pitched upon this situation The news of your freedom lifts the load of for only to enjoy those pleasures in private which she mer anxiety from my mind; I can now think of my had not sufficient effrontary to satisfy in a more son without reget, applaud his resignation under open manner. A nearer acquaintance soon showed calamities, and his conduct in extricating himself me the vicious part of her character; her mind, as from them. well as her body, seemed formed only for pleasure; You are now frce, just let loose from the bondshe was sentimental only as it served to protract age of a hard master: this is the crisis of your the immediate enjoyment. Formed for society fate; and as you now manage fortune, succeeding alone, she spoke infinitely better than she wrote, life will be marked with happiness or misery. A and wrote infinitely better than she lived. A per- few years' perseverance in prudence, which at your son devoted to pleasure often leads the most misera- age is but another name for virtue, will insure comble life imaginable; such was her case : she consi- fort, pleasure, tranquillity, esteem; too eager an dered the natural moments of languor as insup- enjoyment of every good that now offers, will reportable; passed all her hours between rapture and verse the medal, and present you with poverty, enxiety; ever in an extreme of agony or of bliss. anxiety, remorse, contempt. She felt a pain as severe for want of appetite, as As it has been observed, that none are better the starving wretch who wants a meal. In those qualified to give others advice, than those who have intervals she usually kept her bed, and rose only taken the least of it themselves; so in this respect when in expectation of some new enjoyment. The I find myself perfectly authorized to offer mine, luxuriant air of the country, the romantic situation even though I should wave my paternal authority of her palace, and the genius of a people whose only upon this occasion. happiness lics in sensual refinement, all contri- The most usual way among young men who buted to banish the remembrance of her native have no resolution of their own, is first to ask one country.

friend's advice and follow it for some time; then to . “But though such a life gave her pleasure, it had ask advice of another, and turn to that; so of a a very different effect upon me; I grew every day third, still unsteady, always changing. However, more pensive, and my melancholy was regarded as be assured, that every change of this nature is for an insult upon her good humour. I now perceived the worse : people may tell you of your being unfit myself entirely unfit for all society; discarded from for some peculiar occupations in life; but heed them the good, and detesting the infamous, I seemed in not; whatever employment you follow with persea state of war with every rank of people; that vir- verance and assiduity, will be found fit for you; it tue, which should have been my protection in the will be your support in youth, and comfort in age. world, was here my crime: in short, detesting life, In learning the useful part of every profession, very I was determined to become a recluse, and to leave moderate abilities will suffice; even if the mind be a world where I found no pleasure that could allure a little balanced with stupidity, it may in this case me to stay. Thus determined, I embarked in order be useful. Great abilities have always been less to go by sea to Rome, where I intended to take the serviceable to the possessors than moderate ones. veil : but even in so short a passage my hard for- Life has been conpared to a race, but the allusion still improves by observing, that the most swift are to the pond, quenched his thirst, in spite of the over the least manageable.

goose, and followed his master. To know one profession only, is enough for one Another obstruction to the fortune of youth is, man to know; and this (whatever the professors that while they are willing to take offence from may tell you to the contrary) is soon learned. Be none, they are also equally desirous of giving nono contented therefore with one good employment ; offence. From hence they endeavour to please all, for if you understand two at a time, people will comply with every request, attempt to suit themgive you business in neither.

selves to every company, have no will of their own, A conjuror and a tailor once happened to con- but, like wax, catch every contiguous impression verse together. “Alas,” cries the tailor, "what By thus attempting to give universal satisfaction, an unhappy poor creature am I; if people should they at last find themselves miserably disappointed: ever take it in their heads to live without clothes, 1 to bring the generality of admirers on our side, it is am undone, I have no other trade to have recourse sufficient to attempt pleasing a very few. to." "Indeed, friend, I pity you sincerely," re- A painter of eminence was once resolved to finplies the conjuror; “but, thank Heaven; things ish a piece which should please the whole world. are not quite so bad with me ; for if one trick should When, therefore, he had drawn a picture, in which fail, I have a hundred tricks more for them yet. his utmost skill was exhausterl, it was exposed in However, if at any time you are reduced to beg- the public market-place, with directions at the bot. gary, apply to me, and I will relieve you.” A fa- tom for every spectator to mark with a brush, which mine overspread the land; the tailor made a shift | lay by, every limb and feature which seemed erro to live, because his customers could not be without neous. The spectators came, and in general ap clothes ; but the poor conjuror with all his hundred plauded; but each, willing to show his talent at tricks, could find none that had money to throw criticism, marked whatever he thought proper. At away: it was in vain that he promised to eat fire, evening, when the painter came, he was mortified or to vomit pins; no single creature would relieve to find the whole picture one universal blot; not a him, till he was at last obliged to beg from the very single stroke that was not stigmatized with marks tailor whose calling he had formerly despised. of disapprobation : not satisfied with this trial, the

There are no obstructions more fatal to fortune next day he was resolved to try them in a different than pride and resentment. If you must resent manner, and exposing his picture as before, desired injuries at all, at least suppress your indignation that every spectator would mark those beauties he until you become rich, and then show away; the approved or admired. The people complied; and resentment of a poor man is like the efforts of a the artist returning, found his picture replete with harmless insect to sting; it may get him crushed, the marks of beauty; every stroke that had been but can not defend him. Who values that anger yesterday condemned, now received the character which is consumed only in empty menaces ? of approbation. “Well,” cries the painter, “I

Once upon a time a goose fed its young by a now find that the best way to please one half of the pond-side ; and a goose in such circumstances is world, is not to mind what the other half says; always extremely proud, and excessively punctili- since what are faults in the eyes of these, shall be ous. If any other animal, without the least design by those regarded as beauties.” Adieu. to offend, happened to pass that way, the goose was immediately at him. The pond, she said, was hers, and she would maintain a right in it, and

LETTER LXII. support her honour, while she had a bill to hiss, or

From the Same. a wing to flutter. In this manner she drove away ducks, pigs, and chickens ; nay, even the insidious A CHARACTER, such as you have represented cat was scen to scamper. A lounging mastiff, how-that of your fair companion, which continues virever, happened to pass by, and thought it no harm tuous, though loaded with infamy, is truly great. if he should lap a little of the water, as he was Many regard virtue because it is attended with ap. thirsty. The guardian goose flew at him like a plause ; your favourite only for the internal pleasure fury, pecked at him with her beak, and flapped him it confers. I have often wished that ladies like with her feathers. The dog grew angry, had twen- her were proposed as models for female imitation, ty times a good mind to give her a sly snap; but and not such as have acquired fame by qualities kuppressing his indignation, because his master repugnant to the natural softness of the sex. was nigh, “ A pox take thee,” cries he, "for a fool! Women famed for their valour, their skill in sure those who have neither strength nor weapons politics, or their learning, leave the duties of their to fight, at least should be civil: that fluttering and own sex, in order to invade the privileges of ours. nissing of thine may one day get thine head snap- I can no more pardon a fair one for endeavouring ped off

, but it can neither injure thine enemies, nor to wield the club ef Hercules, than I could him for over protect thee." So saying, he went forward (attempting to twirl her distaff.

The modest virgin, the prudent wife, or the she resided in quality of governess to his children; areful matron, are much more serviceable in life at once reconciling in her character unerring pruthan petticoated philosophers, blustering heroines, dence with surprising vivacity. or virago queens. She who makes her husband The old man, who regarded her as one of his and her children happy, who reclaims the one from own children, had her instructed in dancing and vice, and trains up the other to virtue, is a much music by the masters who attended the rest of his greater character than ladies described in romance, family; thus she continued to improve till he died, whose whole occupation is to murder mankind by which accident she was once more reduced to with shafts from their quiver or their eyes. pristine poverty. The country of Livonia was at

Wonren, it has been observed, are not naturally this time wasted by war, and lay in a most miserformed for great cares themselves, but to soften able state of desolation. Those calamities are ever ours. Their tenderness is the proper reward for most heavy upon the poor; wherefore Catharina, the dangers we undergo for their preservation; and though possessed of so many accomplishments, exthe ease and cheerfulness of their conversation, our perienced all the miseries of hopeless indigence, desirable retreat from the fatigues of intense appli- Provisions becoming every day more scarce, and cation. They are confined within the narrow her private stock being entirely exhausted, she relimits of domestic assiduity: and when they stray solved at last to travel to Marienburgh, a city of beyond them, they move beyond their sphere, and greater plenty. consequently without grace.

With her scanty wardrobe packed up in a walFame therefore has been very unjustly dispensed let, she set out on her journey on foot: she was to among the female sex. Those who least deserved walk through a region miserable by nature, but to be remembered meet our admiration and ap- rendered still more hideous by the Swedes and plause ; while many, who have been an honour to Russians, who, as each happened to become mas humanity, are passed over in silence. Perhaps no ters, plundered it at discretion : but hunger had age has produced a stronger instance of misplaced taught her to despise the dangers and fatigues of fame than the present; the Semiramis and the the way. Thalestris of antiquity are talked of, while a modern One evening upon her journey, as she had entercharacter, infinitely greater than either, is un- fed a cottage by the way-side, to take up her lodging noticed and unknown.

for the night, she was insulted by two Swedish Catharina Alexowna, born near Derpat, a little soldiers, who insisted upon qualifying her, as they city in Livonia, was heir to no other inheritance termed it, to follow the camp. They might probably than the virtues and frugality of her parents. Her have carried their insults into violence, had not a father being dead, she lived with her aged mother subaltern officer, accidentally passing by, come in in their cottage covered with straw; and both, to her assistance; upon his appearing, the soldiers though very poor, were very eontented. Here, re- inmediately desisted; but her thankfulness was tired from the gaze of the world, by the labour of hardly greater than her surprise, when she instanther hands she supported her parent, who was now ly recollected in her deliverer, the son of the Luincapable of supporting herself. While Catharina theran minister, her former instructor, benefactor, spun, the old woman would sit by and read some and friend. book of devotion ; thus, when the fatigues of the This was a happy interview for Catharina : the day were over, both would sit down contentedly little stock of money she had brought from homo by their fire-side, and enjoy the frugal meal with was by this time quite exhausted; her clothes were vacant festivity.

gone, piece by piece, in order to satisfy those who Though her face and person were models of had entertained her in their houses : her generous perfection, yet her whole attention seemed bestow-countryman, therefore, parted with what he could ed upon her mind; her mother taught her to read, spare, to buy her clothes, furnished her with a and an old Lutheran minister instructed her in the horse, and gave her letters of recommendation to maxims and duties of religion. Nature had furnish- Mr. Gluck, a faithful friend of his father's, and ed her not only with a ready but a solid turn of superintendant at Marienburgh. Our beautiful thought, not only with a strong but a right under- stranger had only to appear to be well received ; standing. Such truly female accomplishments she was immediately admitted into the superinprocured her several solicitations of marriage froni tendant's family, as governess to his two daughters, the peasants of the country; but their offers were and though yet but seventeen, showed herself ca refused; for she loved her mother too tenderly to pable of instructing her sex, not only in virtue, think of a separation,

but politeness. Such was her good sense, and Catharina was fifteen when her mother died; beauty, that her master himself in a short time she now therefore left her cottage, and went to live offered her his hand, which to his great surprise with the Lutheran minister, by whom she had she thought proper to refuse. Actuated by a heen instructed from her childhood. In his house principle of gratitude, she was resolved to marry her deliverer only, even though he had lost an arm, We now see Catharina, from the low mud-walland was otherwise disfigured by wounds in the ed cottage, empress of the greatest kingdom upon service.

earth. The poor solitary wanderer is now sur• In order therefore to prevent further solicitations rounded by thousands, who find happiness in her froin others, as soon as the officer came to town smile. She, who formerly wanted a meal, is now upon duty, she offered him her person, which he capable of diffusing plenty upon whole nations, accepted with transport, and their nuptials were To her fortune she owed a part of this pre-emisolemnized as usual. But all the lines of her for- nence, but to her virtues more. tune were to be striking: the very day on which She ever after retained those great qualities they were married, the Russians laid siege to which first placed her on a throne ; and, while the Marienburgh. The unhappy soldier had now no extraordinary prince, her husband, laboured for time to enjoy the well-earned pleasures of matri- the reformation of his male subjects, she studied mony; he was called off, before consummation, to an in her turn the improvement of her own sex. She attack, from which he was never after seen to return. altered their dresses, introduced mixed assemblies,

In the mean time the siege went on with fury, instituted an order of female knighthood; and at aggravated on one side by obstinacy, on the other length, when she had greatly filled all the stations by revenge. This war between the two northern of empress, friend, wife, and mother, bravely died powers at that time was truly barbarous; the in- without regret, regretted by all. Adieu. nocent peasant, and the harmless virgin, often shared the fate of the soldier in arms. Marienburgh was taken by assault ; and such was the fury

LETTER LXIII. of the assailants, that not only the garrison, but almost all the inhabitants, men, women, and child- From Lien Chi Altangi, to Fum Honm, First President of the ren, were put to the sword: at length, when the Ceremonial Academy at Pekin, in China. carnage was pretty well over, Catharina was found In every letter I expect accounts of some new hid in an oven.

revolutions in China, some strange occurrence in She had been hitherto poor, but still was free; the state, or disaster among my private acquaintshe was now to conform to her hard fate, and learn ance. I open every packet with tremulous expecwhat it was to be a slave: in this situation, how-tation, and am agreeably disappointed when I find ever, she behaved with piety and humility; and my friends and my country continuing in felicity. though misfortunes had abated her vivacity, yet I wander, but they are at rest; they suffer few she was cheerful. The fame of her merit and re- changes but what pass in my own restless imaginasignation reached even Prince Menzikoff, the tion: it is only the rapidity of my own motion Russian general; he desired to see her, was struck gives an imaginary swiftness te objects which are with her beauty, bought her from the soldier her in some measure immoveable. master, and placed her under the direction of his Yet believe me, my friend, that even China itself own sister. Here she was treated with all the re-is imperceptibly degenerating from her ancient spect which her merit deserved, while her beauty greatness: her laws are now more venal, and her every day improved with her good fortune. merchants are more deceitful than formerly; the

She had not been long in this situation, when very arts and sciences have run to decay. Observe Peter the Great paying the prince a visit

, Cathari- the carvings on our ancient bridges, figures that na happened to come in with some dry fruits, add grace even to nature : there is not an artist now which she served round with peculiar modesty. in all the empire that can imitate their beauty. Our The mighty monarch saw, and was struck with manufactures in porcelain, too, are inferior to what her beauty. He returned the next day, called for we once were famous for; and even Europe now the beautiful slave, asked her several questions, begins to excel us. There was a time when China and found her understanding even more perfect was the receptacle fur strangers; when all were than her person.

welcome who either came to improve the state, or He had been forced when young to marry from admire its greatness; now the empire is shut up motives of interest; he was now resolved to marry from every foreign improvement, and the very inpursuant to his own inclinations. He immediate- habitants discourage each other from prosecuting ly inquired the history of the fair Livonian, who their own internal advantages. was not yet eighteen. He traced her through the Whence this degeneracy in a state so little subvale of obscurity, through all the vicissitudes of her ject to external revolutions? how happens it that fortune, and found her truly great in them all. The China, which is now more powerful than ever, meanness of her birth was no obstruction to his which is less subject to foreign invasions, and even design : their nuptials were solemnized in private, assisted in some discoveries by her connexions with the Prince assuring his courtiers, tha virtue alone Europe ; whence comes it, I say, that the empire is was tho propcrest ladder to a throne.

thus declining so fast into barbarity?

From the Same.

This decay is surely from nature, and not the past; and such probably it will ever be. China, I pesult of voluntary degeneracy. In a period of have observed, has evidently begun to degenerate two or three thousand years she seems at proper from its former politeness; and were the learning intervals to produce great minds, with an effort of the Europeans at present candidly considered, resembling that which introduces the vicissitudes the decline would perhaps appear to have already of seasons. They rise up at once, continue for taken place. We should find among the natives an age, enlighten the world, fall like ripened of the West, the study of morality displaced for corn, and mankind again gradually relapse into mathematical disquisition, or metaphysical subtlepristine barbarity. We little ones look around, ties; we should find learning begin to separate from are amazed at the decline, seek after the causes the useful duties and concerns of life, while none of this invisible decay, attribute to want of en- ventured to aspire after that character, but they couragement what really proceeds from want of who know much more than is truly amusing or power, are astonished to find every art and every useful. We should find every great attempt supscience in the decline, not considering that autumn pressed by prudence, and the rapturous sublimity is over, and fatigued nature again begins to repose in writing cooled by a cautious fear of offence. We for some succeeding effort.

should find few of those daring spirits, who bravely Some periods have been remarkable for the pro- ventured to be wrong, and who are willing to hazard duction of men of extraordinary stature; others much for the sake of great acquisitions. Providence for producing some particular animals in great has indulged the world with a period of almost four abundance; some for excessive plenty; and others hundred years' refinement ; does it not now by deagain for seemingly causeless famine. Nature, grees sink us into our former ignorance, leaving us which shows herself so very different in her visible only the love of wisdom, while it deprives us of its productions, must surely differ also from herself in advantages? Adieu. the production of minds, and while she astonishes one age with the strength and stature of a Milo or a Maximin, may bless another with the wisdom of

LETTER LXIV. a Plato, or the goodness of an Antonine.

Let us not then attribute to accident the falling off of every nation, but to the natural revolution of things. Often in the darkest ages there has ap- The princes of Europe have found out a manpeared some one man of surprising abilities, who, ner of rewarding their subjects who have behaved with all his understanding, failed to bring his bar- well, by presenting them with about two yards of barous age into refinement : all mankind seemed blue riband, which is worn about the shoulder. to sleep, till nature gave the general call, and then They who are honoured with this mark of disthe whole world seemed at once roused at the tinction are called knights, and the king himself is voice; science triumphed in every country, and always the head of the order. This is a very fruthe brightness of a single genius seemed lost in a gal method of recompensing the most important galaxy of contiguous glory.

services: and it is very fortunate for kings that Thus the enlightened periods in every age have their subjects are satisfied with such trifling rebeen universal. At the time when China first be- wards. Should a nobleman happen to lose his gan to emerge from barbarity, the Western world leg in a battle, the king presents him with two was equally rising into refinement; when we had yards of riband, and he is paid for the loss of his our Yau, they had their Sesostris. In succeeding limb. Should an ambassador spend all his paterages, Confucius and Pythagoras seem born nearly nal fortune in supporting the honour of his countogether, and a train of philosophers then sprung try abroad, the king presents him with two yards up as well in Greece as in China. The period of of riband, which is to be considered as an equivis renewed barbarity began to have a universal spread lent to his estate. In short, while a European much about the same time, and continued for several king has a yard of blue or green riband left ho centuries, till in the year of the Christian era 1400, need be under no apprehensions of wanting states the Emperor Yonglo arose to revive the learning men, generals, and soldiers. of the East; while about the same time, the Me- I can not sufficiently admire those kingdoms in dicean family laboured in Italy to raise infant genius which men with large patrimonial estates are wilfrom the cradle: thus we see politeness spreading ling thus to undergo real hardships for empty faover every part of the world in one age, and bar-vours. A person, already possessed of a compo barity succeeding in another; at one period a blaze tent fortune, who undertakes to enter the career of of light diffusing itself over the whole world, and at ambition, feels many real inconveniences from his another all mankind wrapped up in the profoundest station, while it procures him no real happiness ignorance.

that he was not possessed of before. He could eat, Such has heen the situation of things in times drink, and sleep, before he became a courtier, as

« AnteriorContinuar »